Be a rosh gadol

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In Israel, soldiers who are rosh gadol (big head) are distinguished from those who are rosh katan (little head). Rosh katan behaviour is shunned because it means interpreting orders as narrowly as possible and to avoid taking on responsibility or extra work.

Rosh gadol thinking means following orders but using judgement. It emphasises execution discipline with improvisation. Rosh gadol connotes a responsible can-do attitude. With a similar spirit, one of my Tata colleagues, Ravi Arora, ends his e-mails with the words, “If it’s a good idea, go ahead and do it. It is much easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission.”

Bitzua, chutzpah and such expressions come alive in an eminently readable and inspiring book called Start-Up Nation: the Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle (Dan Senor and Saul Singer, Twelve Hachette Group, 2009).  Bitzua translates into ‘getting things done’. This spirit of ‘try it, just do it’ is all-pervasive in Israel and has led to the country becoming a top destination for R&D. According to Jewish scholar Leo Rosten, chutzpah is “gall, brazen nerve, effrontery, presumption plus arrogance.”

The secret lies in culture, not processes. Companies should examine how to develop more rosh gadol, chutzpah and bitzua by influencing the organisational culture rather than only their processes.

Source : innocolumn – Business Standard By R. Gopalkrishanan

This applies to Individual as well…One must decide, in taking daily decision and being opinionated, would like to be Rosh gadol or rosh katan..

How Burnt Cheese Undermined Starbuck Aroma..

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Does the Starbucks breakfast sandwich ruin your Starbucks experience? Yes? Then maybe Howard Schultz was right.

In 2007, an internal memo penned by Schultz (then chairman of Starbucks) leaked. In the memo Schultz outlined why he was dissatisfied with the Starbucks experience—the tall espresso machines alienated customers, the aroma of the stores was awful, the essence Starbucks had vanished. A public outburst ensued. Some writers credited Schultz as an innovator; others questioned the future of Starbucks. For Schultz, the problem was not a of lack innovation or poor sales. It was the breakfast sandwich.

“Starbucks first began serving sandwiches in 2003,” Schultz writes in Onward. Customers arrived at Starbucks with food from competitors or bought Starbucks coffee and went elsewhere to eat. The sandwiches erased these gaps and drove profits. They also caused a mess. The more popular they became, the more time Starbucks baristas spent heating them. The cheese would inevitably drip and sizzle in the ovens, releasing a pungent smell. “Whatever rich, heart coffee aroma remained in the store was overwhelmed by singed Monterrey Jack, mozzarella, and, most offensively, cheddar,” Schultz writes. “The smell further chipped away at our narrative. Where was the magic in burnt cheese?”

Schultz resisted hot food at Starbucks from day one. Yes, innovation is good, but not when it cannibalizes a brand. By introducing novel products, Starbucks moved away from Schultz’ original insight, which focused not on selling coffee but creating an ideal atmosphere for coffee drinkers. The smell of burnt cheese undermined that atmosphere. Yet those cheesy sandwiches were profitable. How could Schultz convince the board to stop selling something that made money?

In the end, he didn’t. In January 2008 Starbucks removed the sandwiches from the display window only to experience a backlash. When emerged the food team returned to the lab. They adjusted the ingredients (higher quality cheese and bread), moved the cheese to the top of the sandwich and reduced the baking temperature. The infamous sandwich returned in June 2008–with Schultz’ blessing.

In hindsight, Schultz concludes that the sandwich per se was not the problem. “The ferocity of my reaction… was likely heightened by my frustration with other shortcomings at the company. More emblematic than problematic, the sandwich turned out be among the least of Starbucks’ ills.” The underlining question was, How do you deliver value in a manner that is consistent with your brand?

For starters, make sure your stores don’t smell like burnt cheese.

This is from the Howard Schultz Book : Onward…

Courtesy :

Field Marshal General Sam Manekshaw

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In India, he is First Person to be christened as Field Marshal, highest military rank in India.   He is credited with winning India-Pakistan War of 1971 and creation of Bangladesh in December – 1971. If you know the little story behind, how he refused to fight a War with Pakistan, initially, you will love the following post. During Second World War, fighting Japanese Army he received 7 bullets in his stomach fighting, he died nearly…as they say rest is history..

The true incident exemplifies, the need to take the right path and speak your mind, even if the person on other side is Prime Minister of India. Today is his 100th Birth Anniversary.


“There is a very thin line between being dismissed and becoming a Field Marshal. In 1971, when Pakistan cracked down in East Pakistan, hundreds and thousands of refugees started pouring into India, into West Bengal, Assam and Tripura. The Prime Minister held a Cabinet meeting in her office. The External Affairs Minister Sardar Swaran Singh, the Agriculture Minister, Mr. Fakhruddin Ali Ahmad, the Defence Minister, Babu Jagjivan Ram and the Finance Minister, Yashwant Rao Chavan were present. I was then summoned.

“A very angry, grim-faced Prime Minister read out the telegrams from the Chief Ministers of West Bengal, Assam and Tripura. She then turned around to me and said, ‘What are you doing about it?’

“And I said, ‘Nothing, it’s got nothing to do with me. You didn’t consult me when you allowed the BSF, the CRP and RAW to encourage the Pakistanis to revolt. Now that you are in trouble, you come to me. I have a long nose. I know what’s happening.’

“I then asked her what she wanted me to do.

“She said, ‘I want you to enter Pakistan.’

“And I responded, ‘That means war!’

“She said, ‘I do not mind if it is war.’

“‘Have you read the Bible?,’ I said.

“The Foreign Minister, Sardar Swaran Singh asked, ‘What has Bible got to do with this?’

“I explained, that the first book, the first chapter, the first words, the first sentence God said was, ‘Let there be light’ and there was light. Now you say, ‘Let there be war’ and there will be war, but are you prepared? I am certainly not. This is the end of April. The Himalayan passes are opening and there can be an attack from China if China gives us an ultimatum.

“The Foreign Minister asked, ‘Will China give an ultimatum?’ And I said, ‘You are the Foreign Minister, you tell me.’ I told them that my armoured division and two of my infantry divisions were away. One in the Jhansi/Babina area, the other in Samba and the third one in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. I mentioned that I will require all the road space, all the railway wagons, the entire railway system to move these formations to the operational areas and that harvesting was in progress in the Punjab and UP and they would not be able to move the harvest which would rot; and I pointed out to the Agriculture Minister that it wouldn’t be my responsibility if there was a famine. Then I said, ‘My armoured division, which is my big striking force is supposed to have 189 tanks operational. I have got only 11 tanks that are fit to fight.’

“The Finance Minister, who is a friend of mine asked, ‘Sam, why only 11?’

“So I told him, ‘Because you are the Finance Minister. I have been asking you for money for over a year and you say you haven’t got it!’

“And finally I turned around to the Prime Minister and said that the rains were about to start in East Pakistan and when it rains there, it pours and when it pours, the whole countryside is flooded. The snows are melting, the rivers would become like oceans. If you stand on one bank, you can’t see the other. All my movement would be confined to roads. The Air Force, because of climatic conditions would not be able to support me. Now Prime Minister, give me your orders. The grim Prime Minister with her teeth clenched said, ‘The Cabinet will meet again at four o’clock.’

“The members of the Cabinet started walking out. I being the juniormost was the last to go and as I was leaving, she said, ‘Chief, will you stay back?’

“I turned around and said, ‘Prime Minister, before you open your mouth, may I send you my resignation on grounds of health, mental or physical?’

“She said, ‘Every thing you told me is true.’

“‘Yes! It is my job to tell you the truth,’ I responded, ‘and it is my job to fight, it is my job to fight to win and I have to tell you the truth.’

“She smiled at me and said, ‘All right Sam, you know what I want?’

“I said, ‘Yes, I know what you want!'”

Three cheers to the old soldier! The only regret? I wish all of us had compulsorily read this at school, among all the mythological and faux historical fables, as a living illustration of moral courage.

Courtesy :

Here’s What I learned About Leadership, while bumping into legendary Adman.

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This article, I stumbled upon while reading If you are not aware, Mr. David Oglivy, the great adman is considered to be legend in advertising, still, his profound leadership qualities have influenced millions.  If you have time, read thru the entire article, certainly…it would make you think…in day to day humdrum, we nearly loose connect with our people, and leadership can not be practiced but for our people.


It was 1986 and I was on the fast track: 28 years old and a newly minted corporate officer, Vice President/Director Financial Analysis at The Ogilvy Group, Inc. (“TOG” – then the NASDAQ and London Stock Exchange listed parent company of the most renown advertising agency in the world, Ogilvy & Mather, and several other advertising agency networks, as well as a few sizeable enterprises specializing in alternate marketing disciplines). With 321 offices, in 49 countries and a blue-chip client roster to die for (Unilever, American Express, Shell, Seagram, Boeing, etc.) there was billions of dollars annually running through TOG’s bank accounts.

My main job responsibilities were to plan and manage TOG’s global cash position, bank relationships, and credit facilities, as well as perform and coherently distill in-depth analysis of our competitors; not to gloss over special projects frequently tossed my way by mentor, Chairman/CEO, Bill Phillips.

A typical workday, by choice, was 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., in a cramped, windowless, and roughly 12-by-12-foot office, located in TOG’s World HQ, at 2 East 48 St. in New York City.

One evening, a bit past 7 p.m., I had just put the final touches on a report promised to John Gill for the next morning. John was TOG’s CFO, the boss who hired me into the company two years earlier and about as fine a gentleman as you will ever meet. I knew he had long since headed home to his family, and I’d likely beat him in the next morning but just in case this was going into his in-tray right now.

By my calculation, I had about 20 minutes to race the mile from 48 Street and Fifth Avenue to the Port Authority (42 Street and Eighth Avenue), to catch the next bus heading toward my New Jersey apartment. If I missed that one, I‘d have to wait another 40 minutes or so for the next, exploding my evening ritual of a quick five-mile run, late meal, 11 p.m. TV news, sleep, repeat. An outdoor period of solitude and endorphins would be forfeited to an indoor one of masses and impatience.

I threw on my overcoat, grabbed the report, picked up my briefcase and darted out of my office in the direction of the in-tray on the desk of John’s secretary, to be followed by a sprint to the elevator. Three steps into a full head of steam and WHAM!!! I collided, chest-to-chest, with another human being.

Remorse and athletic reflex were set off immediately. Simultaneous to thoughts of  “oh no, I’m an idiot, hope I didn’t hurt this person,” I dropped both the report and briefcase, seized fistfuls of shirt and yanked. Fortunately, I prevented the final descent to the floor but in view of the body slam, violent levitation, and replanting, I was not expecting gratitude.

Winded, disheveled and six inches from my nose, the victim’s face came into focus. Panic joined contrition. Standing in front of me, tucking in his shirt and giving me the “are you insane” stare, was our founder, the name the office doors around the globe, David Ogilvy. Gulp!

I’m thinking, “This cannot be happening … man lives in a castle in France … he hates to fly … never met him and this is howdy-do … oh good lord, pack up Jim, you’re done…” At the same time I’m trying to apologize. An initial bout of the “um, er, ums” was mercifully replaced by a chorus of  “I’m so sorry.” To my amazement, equilibrium regained, he smiled, stuck his right hand out and said “I’m David Ogilvy. Pleased to run into you.”

I took his hand and shook it, not too firmly, and said something like, “I know who you are…I’m really sorry…wasn’t expecting anyone to be coming around the corner…you all right…” He kept smiling and responded that he was fine and glad to see such vigor late in the day.  Then asked my name. I replied, “Jim Treacy.”

Then the most amazing thing happened. His response even more unexpected than his incredible graciousness, “The remarkable young fellow who authors those excellent cash papers … let’s sit in your office and chat a bit, if you have time.” I’ll never forget it and happily complied.

For roughly 45 minutes, David Ogilvy and I sat in my tiny office chewing the fat. He insisted I sit in my desk chair. He sat in a guest chair, wedged in the four, or so, feet of space between the front of my desk and an office wall. Here are some of the topics we discussed:

  • He demonstrated that he knew my career background and asked about my upbringing, education, personal life, etc. Warned me that the quest for work-life balance is challenging.
  • The importance of cash flow in a business: I commented that it is the lifeblood of a company, know it and know the state of the business. He retorted something like, “let’s see if this board director knows what he needs to.” He peppered me with questions on some issues from my most recent papers for the board. He’d read them, closely!
  • He saw my surprise and said I should return the favor by reading his book “Ogilvy On Advertising.” Feeling comfortable, I told him I had read all three of his books (“Blood, Brains & Beer” and “Confessions of an Advertising Man”). The quiz began, and thankfully I passed. “Well done. You know, not enough of our account and creative people have read those, and if they did you’ve outscored most of them,” he said. My chest swelled. Aside: “Ogilvy On Advertising” is one of the great business books of all time, particularly Chapter Four on leadership and hiring.
  • Then he told me in his heyday running the company he would occasionally roam the halls in the evening, to see who was still around, what they were working on, sit and talk with them a bit, etc. He said it helped him keep a pulse on the business and in fact that was what he was doing this evening “when you nearly killed me.”

With that he looked at his watch and said, “This was fun but I must be going. I’m due for late supper at Bill’s (CEO, Phillips) place and am afraid you’ve put me a bit behind. Do you know where he lives? If not too inconvenient, perhaps you could walk me there? I get all jumbled up sometimes and it’s been a while since I’ve been in New York…”

Happy compliance continued. Bill lived in Museum Tower (15 West 53 St., just off Fifth Avenue), a short walk, no matter; at that point I’d have accompanied David Ogilvy to the ends of the earth if he needed a guide.

On the way he baited me, asking my view on an issue I fortunately was aware he and Bill disagreed on. I told him, “No dice…I know you disagree with Bill on that one. If I agree with you he’ll hear about it at dinner and I’ll be in big trouble, and if I agree with him you’ll be more likely to tell him about the dolt who nearly pancaked you.” He belly laughed, “Good for you, well played.”

With that we were in front of Museum Tower. He thanked me and I him, adding a “Good night, Mr. Ogilvy.” He said I could call him “David,” but I was never able to do that.

The next morning, sometime around 8 a.m., Bill stuck his head into my office and told me, “David, enjoyed his time with you last evening. Thanks for that and for walking him over to my place.” The CEO came out of his way to thank me for something that was 100% my pleasure, amazing! The Ogilvy company culture of civility was inspiring.